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Cracking Down on Copwatchers: National Trends
In a worrisome trend, more citizens are being arrested and harassed by police as they exercise their right to observe and record police while they perform their duty as public servants.
On September 14, the ACLU of Mississippi announced it would be suing the city of Jackson on behalf of Bret Cox, who was arrested for videotaping the police and requesting their badge numbers.
The Associated Press reports that on November 12, Luis Luna was arrested in Wallingford, CT for videoing an arrest from across the street on his iPhone. Luna was charged for interfering with police and held overnight. When his phone was returned, the video he captured had been erased. An Internal Affairs investigation is pending.
Luna is a member of Copwatch New Haven. He pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of creating a public disturbance after failing to qualify for a public defender (New Haven Independent, November 11).
In another case, the Baltimore Sun (September 27) reports "In a decision that could make it easier for citizens to record police officers in Maryland, a Harford County judge ruled Monday that state police and prosecutors were wrong to arrest and charge a man for taping his own traffic stop and posting it on the Internet." Anthony Graber was riding his motorcycle and wearing a helmet equipped with a camera which was recording when he was stopped by a man with a gun drawn. The man with the gun then identified himself as a state police officer. (The video is available on youtube.) The Sun quotes the judge in Graber's case: "Those of us who are public officials and are entrusted with the power of the state are ultimately accountable to the public... When we exercise that power in public fora, we should not expect our actions to be shielded from public observation."
Simon Glik is suing the city of Boston for his arrest in 2007 while videotaping an incident of police using excessive force with his cellphone. Portland Copwatch is contributing to a brief to be filed in the suit.
In Portland, after activist Mike Tabor had his camera taken from him while taping police, he filed a lawsuit which resulted in formal policy changes (PPR #46). Now, videoing police interactions is considered legal in Portland so long as those filming obey lawful orders and do not interfere.
Cop who shot Aaron Campbell fired
Portland Copwatch Portland Copwatch is a grassroots, volunteer organization promoting police accountability
through citizen action.
Portland Copwatch is a grassroots, volunteer organization promoting police accountability through citizen action.